Throughout 2017, headlines about climate change agreements, carbon taxes, pending pipeline deals, emissions, natural disasters, melting ice caps and unpredictable weather patterns have dominated our headlines. As meeting and event leaders, a big part of our job is to engage and participate in conversations about how our events are impacting the environment.
Don’t freak out just yet! This does not mean you must give up eating meat, or give up using plastic and it does not mean you have to spend a bunch of money “greening” your event. Being sustainably responsible and being fiscally responsible are not mutually exclusive. As event professionals, all this means is that we must be more deliberate and focused in our efforts, as an industry, to try and use energy more efficiently while limiting our impact on the earth.
It is crucial that we are having these conversations with our clients, making these requests of our vendors and keeping the topic top of mind. The more demand we place on venues, hotels, AV companies and our suppliers to make sustainability a priority, the more we will start to see the industry shift.
As an event professional, how can you do your part? It’s not as difficult as it seems and below are 5 examples of amazingly small things you can put into action right away:
1. Do You Even Compost?
When negotiating contracts with venues, ask them about their composting procedures. Many venues claim that they compost their food waste, but typically, this only applies to food prep waste, not the food that is left on plates or left at the buffet. Ask them to compost all the food that is left over from the actual meal service and you’ll save hundreds of pounds of waste from going into landfills.
Companies like Green Event Services can even provide equipment and consulting services to help you integrate this into your event.
2. Bulk Is Better
Request that your venue do away with individual packets of sugar, salt, pepper and condiments. These items can be purchased in bulk and set out in larger shakers or containers. This is the same for hotel notepads and pens. Request that venues make these available in a small stack at the back of the room instead of placing these out on tables where most of them are waste. For an event or conference of 400 – 500 people something this small will add up quickly.
3. Can You Show Me The Way?
When printing signage, print signs that do not have the dates on them so you can reuse them from year to year. Print signs that are blank where you can adhere new information on it throughout your event on an as-need basis. Printing and throwing out signs that we only need once is one of the highest waste activities that event planners are guilty of. Even better, invest in some sign stands like the Quartet® Adjustable Sign Stand and do away with foam core. Most event signs are printed and then mounted on Styrofoam, which is rarely recycled and will end up in our landfills long after your event is over.
4. Swag Sucks!
This opinion may not be popular with everyone, but next time you’re buying a delegate bag item or an attendee gift, evaluate whether attendees really need another USB phone charger or fidget spinner. Most of these items end up in the garbage and are a large and costly line item in your budget. A great alternative is to donate to a local charity or better yet, check out a concept like Forest Farmer where you can give each of your attendees a virtual “tree” that they can plant in a real forest. It’s creative and it’s unique…. unlike another generic water bottle or ballcap that your attendees do not really need.
5. Sharing Is Caring
Attendees travelling from all over the city or country to take part in your event creates a large environmental impact. Providing discounts for attendees who choose to carpool or take public transportation, using your registration process to encourage ride sharing or carpooling or locating your event near a major public transit line are all things you can do to make it easier for attendees to get to your event while reducing their footprint.
Whenever we talk about the environment, or having “green events”, most planners immediately think about how costly it will be to implement green practices into their process. In reality, all we must do is keep having conversations about it, keep it top of mind for our clients and keep taking small steps. If 5 more planners ask a venue about their light bulbs this year, that’s 5 more times a venue is reminded that those things are important to their customers. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight, but a few small steps will certainly make a difference.